‘Sacrificed in the name of COVID patients’: Tens of thousands affected by surgery cancellations

May 10, 2020

Almost 200,000 surgeries and other procedures, cancer screening tests and clinical trials of experimental medicines were shelved indefinitely as hospitals braced for a possible flood of COVID-19 patients. A deluge that never quite materialized.

Meanwhile, many hospitals have sat barely half-full.

Doctors and patient advocates say the dramatic, overnight retooling of the nation’s health-care system, luckily, didn’t trigger a tsunami of deaths or other bad outcomes for non-COVID patients, thanks largely to careful planning.

But there is evidence of negative impacts nonetheless.

Modelling in Ontario estimated the cancellation of elective heart surgeries would result in more than 30 deaths by early May.

Colleagues of Dr. Andrew Krahn, Vancouver-based president of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, called to check on a patient awaiting the pandemic-delayed implant of a defibrillator, a device designed to prevent lethal heart rhythm problems. His daughter answered, revealing that the patient had already died, says Krahn.

Delia Oliveira, a Surrey, B.C., woman, told media that her 50-year-old husband, Chris Walcroft, passed away April 15, weeks after the procedure to prepare him for life-saving kidney dialysis was cancelled.

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